IRVING, Texas – Avenging losses and poor performances is something the Dallas Cowboys have done extremely well this year.
From taking out New Orleans after giving up the most yardage in team history just a season ago, to being destroyed by Chicago, but bouncing back with a dominant performance at Soldier Field. The Cowboys hope that trend continues Sunday in their wildcard matchup with the Detroit Lions, and they'll be hoping to avoid a repeat performance of what Calvin Johnson did last year --- torching Dallas for the best game of his eight-year career.
"Obviously it's at the top. I've never had anything like it," Johnson said with a chuckle. "To be able to have the output I did in that game, that was crazy."
Crazy indeed. Johnson had 14 receptions for 329 yards and a touchdown in Detroit's 31-30 comeback victory over the Cowboys at Ford Field. The Dallas D was lit up for 623 yards of total offense that day, and it was all fueled by Johnson.
"I would be really hard pressed to tell you what they did besides throw it all around to Calvin Johnson," said Orlando Scandrick who expects a much different outcome this year. "We've just got to stop the big plays."
Easier said than done, because Johnson's domination of the Cowboys isn't limited to just last year. He caught eight passes for 96 yards and two scores in a 34-30 win against the Cowboys in 2011.
"If we get that single coverage we got to take advantage of it again," Johnson said.
He is having another big year – though it looks like a down season compared to his lofty standards. "Megatron" has hauled in 71 catches for 1,077 yards – which is his lowest total since 2009, when he finished with 984 yards.
"He's a big receiver. He's a good receiver," said Tyrone Crawford. "But I have full faith in our guys and full faith in our system and our coaches that we can go out there and be successful."
Like the Cowboys, the Lions are a much more potent offense this season. For Detroit it's the addition of Golden Tate, who came to Detroit after winning the Super Bowl last year with the Seattle Seahawks.
"They have two great wideouts that, me personally, heads their offense in Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate," Scandrick said. "[Tates's] run after catch. What he does once he gets the ball in his hands is impressive. He's a very good player."
In fact, Tate leads Detroit in catches and yards, giving Highland Park native Matthew Stafford more weapons to attack a Dallas defense that's allowing an average of more than 251 yards through the air. Stafford is having another splendid year under center, throwing for more than four-thousand yards and connecting on 22 touchdown passes, but none of that impresses this Cowboys group.
"Nothing more than any other quarterback," said Crawford.
And that was echoed by Scandrick, who appears to have the most confidence in not only himself, but this underappreciated unit.
"I'm not sitting there enamored and drooling over a player, he's a good quarterback…I'm not here to grade Matthew Stafford," he said.
Stafford's grades improve the more he's able to sit in the pocket and pick apart opposing secondaries. That's exactly what he did to the tune of 488 yards last year after only being sacked once against the Cowboys. However, Stafford does possess the ability to turn the ball over if he's pressured. Dallas has forced 12 turnovers the past four games and if that continues, they should continue in the march to Arizona.
"We're at this win or go home stage and we're not going to do anything different," Scandrick said. "We're just going to go and do what we need to do and play winning football."
Against Detroit, it's not allowing Calvin Johnson to become "Megatron," as he did just last year.